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The First Cut


I’ve been meaning to blog about The First Cut, the latest exhibition at the Manchester Art Gallery, for a while as it involves one of my absolute favourite crafts – paper cutting.

I was lucky enough through my work as a press officer to attend a special private viewing and chat to the curator, Fiona Corridan, who talked about the resurgence of paper cutting in art. I also spoke to three of the artists – Nicola Dale, James Aldridge and Andrew Singleton.

Nicola Dale’s work Sequel depicts a real “tree of knowledge” – with leaves made from reference books covering all areas of learning, while Downed (pictured below) features a drift of paper feather made from Ordnance Survey maps which were being thrown out by her local library. 

Nicola Dale - Downed

She said: “Because we are moving into a digital world books are suffering – particularly reference books. Consequently, charity shops are full of reference books so I go in and hoover them up! At least I’ve rescued them and turned them into something that I think is beautiful.”

James Aldridge now lives in Sweden, surrounded by thick forest where he creates his enormous Poe-esque works.

“For me it is very much about having a mental image of the piece as it evolves – there is no drawing or a mockup, it comes about by itself which is really important to me,” he said, admitting that it was “nervewracking” installing the piece at Manchester Art gallery without knowing for sure it would work. “I want them to be like entering an environment and becoming part of the landscape.”

Andy Singleton’s Stellar Spire in the Eagle Nebula hangs in the corner of the gallery like a beautiful and sinister ghost. 

He said: “I have always looked at natural forms, and I was interested in exploring the forms of deep space. I had a book of photographs from the Hubble space telescope and they were amazing – these massive sculptural forms hanging in space made from dust and gas. They look like these really still objects, but in reality there’s so much energy going on.”

Another highlight of the exhibition for me was Claire Brewster’s incredible sweeping flock of birds, The Harbingers (pictured below)

Claire Brewster - The Harbingers

How is this going to affect my designing? I’m not sure! Nicola Dale and Claire Brewster’s work is closest in palette and sentiment to my collections, although I love the idea of looking into deep space for inspiration. And surely there I can incorporate some of James’ Gothic sensibilities. Watch this space… 

The First Cut runs until Sunday, January 27th

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